Master-Workshop «Design en route»

by Armin Blasbichler

Whether considered in terms of everyday social practices, at a community scale or at the level of global challenges, a framing around designing for transitions brings together considerations of temporality, futures, and different types of literacies, participation, human needs, interconnectedness and involves a practice of designing how transitions are conceived, enacted, governed and managed.


The imperative to create economically and ecologically resilient communities is driving initiatives for re-localization. One can witness an exponential growth of civil initiatives that experiment both locally and globally with alternative models and solutions. Yet, such efforts for re-localization need to be put in the context of new technologies, national policy, and the wider global knowledge commons. Behind the scenes, an entirely new set of values is being built up, with discoveries such as new types of manage common property, consensus mechanisms, open logistics systems and decentralized supply chains. What are potentials of the globally distributed knowledge commons in conjunction with emerging capacity for localized production of value? How does it affect urbanization, social interaction, the role of the individual and the institutions, eventually entire lifestyles? And what role do designers play in it?

In his book «Design, When Everybody Designs», Ezio Manzini distinguishes between ‘diffuse design’ performed by everybody and ‘expert design’ per-formed by those who have been trained as designers. The interaction between the both unfolds a design process in which solutions are suggested and new meanings are created suggesting that the role of the designers shifts from the one of a demiurgic creator to a facilitators, giving people them the tools they need to enact change. If this is the case, designers must aware of distributed knowledge among peers, patterns of social interaction, principles of spontaneous order among others. Instead of creating new products and services from scratch themselves, designers therefore must creatively reinterpret from what already exists by playing a meta role in shaping "the conditions to replicate ideas". Free-spacing utopias in a collaborative fashion creates a stance of sustain-ability at a community scale, and resilience at the level of wicked problems at global scale, and at the same time acknowledging the interconnectedness of both realms.

During the workshop series we will develop design interventions and scenarios to seed systems-level change for positive societal transition. Methods of interactive scenario-building, back-casting desirable futures and road-mapping of yet unknown values are approaches we will be experimenting with.